You figured the Lions would do something to honor the memory of Corey Smith, who went missing off Florida on Feb. 28. On cue, they’ve announced they’re retiring his number. Here’s the rub; they’re “retiring” it in the Brett Favre sense of retiring.
So in 2009 no Lion will wear number 93. But in 2010, the number will be wide open again! Since no one wears it now, this means … absolutely nothing. Leave it to Detroit to put together a tribute that’s part inspiring, part insulting.
At a service in Smith’s hometown church in Richmond, Va., yesterday, Lions player development director Galen Smith said the defensive end’s number would be retired for the next NFL season.
Smith’s high school coach, Kevin Burden, spoke to the importance of a number.
“Tonight, when I say my prayers, I will ask God to assign me a guardian angel and he’ll be wearing number 93,” Burden concluded, leaving many in the crowd sobbing or wiping their eyes.
The Lions were in a bit of a bind. Smith only spent three years with the team, all as a backup. Only diehard Detroit fans had even heard of a guy before the tragedy, and he wasn’t going to be re-signed by the team. So it’s understandable that they’re not going all out for him, but at the same time they would have come across as callous if they had done nothing.
So is this a good compromise? I suppose it’s better than Washington (which doesn’t officially retire numbers) leaving Sean Taylor’s number 21 in limbo. And at least Detroit gets to hold a little ceremony before the first game and everyone gets to feel good about themselves.
Still, in a year’s time, some poor worker is going to have to take down the “93″ decal when the number is unretired. And who’s going to feel good about themselves then?